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Game 28 Preview & Thread: Nuggets at Grizzlies (2pm MDT)

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72849_indiana_pacers_v_memphis_grizzlies_medium_mediumIf Chauncey Billups isn't available to play, it might as well be against a team you've beaten eight consecutive times.

If there's one consistent thing the Nuggets have done well over the past three seasons it's beat up on the Western Conference cellar dwellers. Going back to 2007-08, the Nuggets are 34-5 combined against the Clippers, Timberwolves, Sonics/Thunder, Kings and the Grizzlies, today's matinée opponent. As noted above, the Nuggets have clocked the Grizzlies eight straight times, most recently when Carmelo Anthony went off for 42 points in the Nuggets 133-123 victory over the Grizz at Pepsi Center of November 1st.

The Grizzlies have actually played some spirited basketball since then. In their last 17 games, the Grizzlies have won 10 with surprising and impressive road wins at Portland and Miami, and solid home victories against Cleveland and Dallas.

But they're still the Grizzlies. I attended the Grizzlies/Clippers game at Staples Center on November 29th and witnessed first hand that this team still doesn't "get it" yet. In that game, the Grizzlies had a 16-point lead entering the fourth quarter and the Clippers had clearly called it a night (actually, it was a day game, but you get the idea). And yet somehow, some way the Grizzlies managed to get outscored 33-7 (that's not a typo) in the game's final stanza and the Clippers won by 10. When the Clippers hold you to seven points in a quarter, you're probably not ready for the postseason yet.

On a side note, at Staples Center that day at least 1/3 of the 15,000 fans were wearing green shirts in honor of Iran's recent "Green Revolution." Why were there so many Persians at Staples that day? Because the Grizzlies have the only Iranian player in NBA history on their roster: Hamed Haddadi. Had the Grizzlies held onto that big lead, Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins certainly would have inserted him during fourth quarter garbage time. But by allowing the Clippers to steal that game, Hollins screwed his team and 5,000-plus NBA fans.

Thanks to an assortment of talented players, the Grizzlies have proved to be dangerous on any given night. But they're still weighed down by some Stiffs, too. Let's take a look...

Grizzlies Stiffs

-Hasheem Thabeet: With fellow rookies James Harden, Tyreke Evans, Jonny Flynn, Stephen Curry and Brandon Jennings all playing well, drafting Thabeet second overall might look like a shaky decision (Thabeet is averaging just 10.4 mpg). But you can't coach height (Thabeet is 7'3") and it's too early to tell if Thabeet will be a longtime Stiff or not.

-Steven Hunter: When I advocated for former Nugget Steven Hunter to be shipped out for something, anything in return many readers here suggested that Hunter still had game left. Really? This future Denver Stiffs Hall of Famer is averaging 2.4 ppg and "shooting" 41.7% from the field. Hunter's career is done.

-Jamaal Tinsley: Back when Nuggets vice president of basketball operations Mark Warkentien was stocking the Nuggets roster with as many talented cancers as possible, he was rumored to have traded Chucky Atkins and Hunter to the Pacers for Tinsley, but the deal never officially consummated (thank god). Tinsley was such a cancer in Indiana, that president of basketball operations Larry Bird made Tinsley stay away from the team for the entire 2008-09 season.

Grizzlies Non-Stiffs

-Marc Gasol: Readers of this blog know I've been on the younger Gasol brother's bandwagon for a while now and still dream of him wearing a Nuggets jersey some day. And this season, Gasol is proving why with impressive averages of 14.5 ppg, 9.9 rpg and 61.3% shooting in just his second NBA season.

-Rudy Gay: Unable to reach an extension over the summer, Gay - the Grizzlies' star player - will be a restricted free agent next summer, meaning the Grizzlies might have to overpay to keep him. Want a prediction? Gay, a former UConn standout, will be offered a deal by the Celtics in the wake of Ray Allen's departing contract

-O.J. Mayo: Mayo and Gay went at it on the bench during that loss at Pepsi Center, but both parties claim that all is good between them. Mayo's production is down a bit from his stellar rookie season, but his field goal percentage has improved to 46.8% which isn't too shabby for a second-year jump shooter.

Opposition's Take: Straight Outta Vancouver

Photo courtesy of AP Photos: Joe Murphy